Happy New Year! We made it! All told, 2022 was a pretty fantastic year -- as close to “normal” as it has been around these parts in quite a while. But '23 promises to be even better. Because new years always promise to be even better. That’s the point of a new year, after all.
And you know what’s as much a part of a new year as anything? Predictions! With that in mind, we take a stab at predicting who the best player on each team in 2023 will be (based on Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR). Some will be whom you might expect. Some will be emerging new talents. Some will come out of nowhere. That’s the fun of it. Here are your '23 stars.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
Guerrero took a step back after his monster season in 2021. But this is still one of the best pure hitters in baseball, and, more to the point, he is still just 23 years old.
2022 Leader: Alek Manoah, 5.9 WAR
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C
Orioles fans might have wanted a little bit more aggression this offseason. But let’s not forget how good this team was in the second half of the season, and particularly when it had Rutschman in the lineup. Get your sleeper AL MVP bets in on him while you can, folks.
2022 Leader: Rutschman, 5.2 WAR
Rays: Wander Franco, SS
We can be more explicit about this: If the Rays are going to be the team they want to be, they need Franco to be the AL MVP candidate most thought he might be heading into 2022.
2022 Leader: Shane McClanahan, 4.0 WAR
Red Sox: Rafael Devers, 3B
Now that we know we won't be spending the entire season discussing trade rumors, this one is an easy lock.
2022 Leader: Xander Bogaerts, 5.8 WAR
Yankees: Aaron Judge, RF
Is there any other possible choice here? Judge might have to reach his 2022 WAR number for the Yankees to win the AL East again.
2022 Leader: Judge, 10.6 WAR
Guardians: José Ramírez, 3B
Ramírez faded a bit down the stretch, but he’s still one of the best players in baseball … and he just might be able to start building himself a Hall of Fame case soon.
2022 Leader: Andrés Giménez, 7.4 WAR
Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS
Would you believe Witt was 10th in WAR on this team last year? That obviously needs to change.
2022 Leader: Brady Singer, 4.5 WAR
Tigers: Riley Greene, CF
Is there a more damning indictment of the 2022 Tigers than that Javier Báez, having the worst year of his career, was their best player?
2022 Leader: Báez, 2.5 WAR
Twins: Byron Buxton, CF
If he’s healthy all year (and we all know how that goes), Buxton is the easiest call on this whole board.
2022 Leader: Carlos Correa, 5.4 WAR
White Sox: Luis Robert Jr., CF
He is going to be only 25 this year. Maybe this is the explosion year?
2022 Leader: Dylan Cease, 6.4 WAR
Angels: Mike Trout, CF
OK, maybe this is the monster year he has when he’s healthy the whole time.
2022 Leader: Shohei Ohtani, 9.6 WAR
Astros: Kyle Tucker, RF
He feels even more primed for a major breakout than he did last year.
2022 Leader: Yordan Alvarez, 6.8 WAR
Athletics: Seth Brown, 1B/OF
Somebody has to lead this team in WAR.
2022 Leader: Sean Murphy, 3.5 WAR
Mariners: Julio Rodríguez, CF
It sure feels like he’s going to go on a run of, like, 10 years in a row of being the best player on this team.
2022 Leader: Rodríguez, 6.2 WAR
Rangers: Jacob deGrom, RHP
If he can hit 150 innings, he might lead all of baseball in WAR. Also: Marcus Semien was better last year than you realized, wasn’t he?
2022 Leader: Semien, 5.9 WAR
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr., RF
The knee should be rested and healthy. He’s surrounded by talent, but Acuña has the skills to launch this team into the stratosphere.
2022 Leader: Austin Riley, 6.5 WAR
Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, RHP
He's as much of a throwback pitcher as you’ll find in baseball. There isn’t a team that wouldn’t move heaven and earth to get someone like him in its rotation.
2022 Leader: Alcantara, 8.0 WAR
Mets: Justin Verlander, RHP
It is possible this is going to be Carlos Correa, but, well, let's just say that's still a little up in the air. In lieu of that, let's go with the OTHER big free agent this team (officially, anyway) signed this offseason. Also: Shout out to Jeff McNeil, who was the best player on a 101-win team last year.
2022 Leader: McNeil, 5.7 WAR
Nationals: CJ Abrams, SS
The fruits of the Juan Soto trade start revealing themselves immediately in Washington.
2022 Leader: Soto, 3.8 WAR
Phillies: Trea Turner, SS
It’s not Bryce Harper only because he’ll miss the first few months of the season.
2022 Leader: J.T. Realmuto, 6.5 WAR
Brewers: Corbin Burnes, RHP
This assumes, of course, he’s still a Brewer.
2022 Leader: Willy Adames, 4.4 WAR
Cardinals: Nolan Arenado, 3B
Maybe being the best player on the Cardinals in 2023 will get him an NL MVP when being the best player on the Cardinals in '22 didn’t.
2022 Leader: Arenado, 7.9 WAR
Cubs: Dansby Swanson, SS
Nico Hoerner’s reward for being the best player on the 2022 Cubs was to get himself replaced at shortstop.
2022 Leader: Hoerner, 4.5 WAR
Pirates: Oneil Cruz, SS
We’re going to have faith that he can translate his otherworldly skill set into some real-world on-field results.
2022 Leader: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 4.3 WAR
Reds: Joey Votto, 1B
Once more, Joey, for old times’ sake.
2022 Leader: Luis Castillo, 3.1 WAR
D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF
Carroll might take the NL West, and maybe the whole baseball world, by storm this year.
2022 Leader: Christian Walker, 5.1 WAR
Dodgers: Mookie Betts, RF
He's still the best player on this team of stars, and he might just remain that way for the next half-decade.
2022 Leader: Betts, 6.4 WAR
Giants: Logan Webb, RHP
Well, now that it’s not going to be Correa -- argh, right? -- the perpetually underappreciated Webb is as good a bet as anybody.
2022 Leader: Carlos Rodón, 5.4 WAR
Padres: Manny Machado, 3B
With all the stars on this team, it’s difficult to choose. But we’ll go with the most reliable guy out of all of them.
2022 Leader: Machado, 6.8 WAR
Rockies: Kris Bryant, LF
OK, well, Kris, let’s try this again.
2022 Leader: Brendan Rodgers, 4.3 WAR